Tuesday, October 11, 2011

More discovering Imagionary Peoples and Places.

Last summer I talked a bit about resuming my exploration of a fictional setting for my toy soldier campaigns. All the usual reasons that one sees in various OS books apply, the ability to fight wargames based on various historical campaigns without building an unlimited number of armies, the removal of national prejudice and political/morality issues that might surround militarily interesting historical campaigns and so on. However, the more I indulge in this business of creating a fictional land, the more interesting it becomes as an exercise in its own right.

I'm not a linguist, despite having managed to rate as functionally bilingual in French in my younger days, which  meant no more than being able to read tolerably well and to carry on basic conversations if the other person spoke slowly and listened thoughtfully, and having picked up a smattering of Scots Gaelic a few years ago. So don't expect an explosion of colourful invented languages and names. I'm not a sociologist or economist either so expect no more than the merest scattering of background such as the average dull witted tourist might pick up on a whirlwind tour. Oh and it may be a long time before the facts uncovered appear anywhere, collected and presented in a coherent fashion. Instead, snippets will appear here and there as they occur to me or as it becomes relevant to a game, partly because I tend to write what I am thinking about with little filtering and partly because I benefit from milking comments. Right, off we go then.

Last night I sat down with pen and graph paper (couldn't find a pencil which I would have preferred), dice and an early copy of BG and drew the basic map of the Northern 1/2 of Neuland. (suggestions for a better name for this island are welcome, both possible native ones, mangled or not and European ones given original discovery/settlement  by Danes and Scots.) The first order of business was to establish the coastline, a topic not actually covered in Henry's Faltanian Succession cartography article. Not being able to remember how I did the first 1/2 other than that when I drew the 1st map, 5 or so years after the cretion of Neuland, I used Henry's article as a guide. I finally decided to start in 1 corner and veer left on a 1,2, go straight on  a 3,4 or veer right on a 5,6, intervening only if it got really silly. There are a few saw tooth stretches of coast that I may  soften a bit but over all it worked well. Once or twice I completed a circle which then became an island and I backed up to create a strait. There were also some interesting peninsulas. All to the good. Next mountain/hilly areas and woods. Here I was a little nervous since I had an idea already of the effect of backwards (sic and apologies to all the Southern Hemisphere readers out there) prevailing winds and mountains on locations of deserts and jungle, but I let the dice go and they didn't let me down. .The biggest area of jungle is on the East coast esp on a low lying peninsula just before a small mountain range. The interior and west coast are either steppe or scattered light woods. For cities, the dice co-operated again, landing a couple on large bays and one at the confluence of 2 rivers. There are lots of details to add over the next weeks but those will be done on the computer rather than by hand. Once I get the map scanned in, I'll share the work in progress.

Adding history, culture and peoples is going to be longer and harder (ie more fun) but the rough outline has been there since before I began. (It really does feel like discovering rather than inventing). As I have said before, I do not wish to copy too closely any real precedent but neither do I wish to stray too far from actual history. With this in mind I have been refreshing myself lightly on various European vs non-European contact in North & South America, South Africa and India. A patient, wise man would spend a year or 2 doing this more deeply but instead I am relying primarily on suggestion from browsing and instinct drawing largely on what I have already ingested in the past. These last few weeks were somewhat shocking to me when I realized just how little I actually knew of the history and peoples of South America, especially prior to the 19thC. Something to be remedied in future but to be honest, at the moment, too deep a knowledge is almost not good as it makes it harder to not copy any one history. Besides various details have already been published in the past on With MacDuff on the Web and I need to be as consistent as possible as I explore this land..

So, having said all that, what do I have so far?

1. The original inhabitants of the island arrived "when the earth was young" when the great warrior Mithiqual crossed the ocean on the back of a giant Crocodile, the descendants of which  can still be found on its eastern shores. He fell in love with a beautiful young seal and she came ashore, married him and became the mother of the People. (ok so some of this may be myth)

2. The bulk of the native inhabitants that inhabit the island are of the same racial origins and show strong cultural similarities on both sides of the Tsentral Mountains despite regional differences. South of the mountains, in the areas partially settled by Europeans, most of the population were largely hunter/gatherers or fisher folk with only small settlements of farmers living in stockaded villages. One of the semi-nomadic Southern Tribal groups, the Saskwatchay is composed of taller than usual men and was originally reported as a race of Giants. (modern research shows that they are only 3-4 mm taller than the average toy soldier but with a corresponding increase in bulk. Fierce-some opponents in hand to hand combat for sure.)

 North of the mountains the situation was similar in the center and the west but with increased agriculture and larger, more numerous towns. . The climate being drier and less wooded, adobe was used for both houses and fortifications. It seems that originally these typically had thatched roofs but as the climate changed and became drier several centuries ago, flat roofs became more common and with the introduction and rapid spread of firearms into the endemic tribal warfare of raid and counter raid,  rooftop parapets  became common, turning every farmstead into a small fortress.

3. In the jungles of the North-East Coast, is a population of jungle/coast dwelling people, off shore fishermen who have been accused of practicing ritual cannibalism. These appear to be of different, though possibly related, race from the rest of the island natives and have comparatively primitive technology and social organization.

4. Most of the native population lived in tribal groups associated into loose confederacies at best but there were three exceptions. In the south-west, the area now known as Faraway,  was ruled by an hereditary line of Queens. These still reign in theory though the Faraway Trading Company Board of Directors is the defacto government. In the  North there are a series of independent, petty kings in the interior who occasionally form significant alliances and in the North West where there are actual native cities that have been in existence since before the 1st European contact, there is an hereditary King who rules a large chunk of the Northern half of the island.

5. In the south, traditional costume was largely made of animal skins but increasingly blankets and other woven clothing were acquired by trade with the North and with the South-West. A mix of European and native styles is increasingly popular. In the north, cotton and wool fabrics are widely used. In hot weather a simple skirt and head scarf were once common wear but now loose trousers are widely worn. Brightly coloured blankets and ponchos are still popular as are head scarves but the latter are sometimes large enough to count as a turban while broad brimmed straw or felt hats, copied from the Europeans have become popular.

6. Horse were introduced by Europeans but spread widely as did the custom of riding. Cattle and sheep are also raised domestically.

7. Finally, the subject of the European history of what is now Neuland, has been touched on previously but briefly, the earliest settlers were Danish Vikings, probably around ad 900 or 1000. They settled along the Hilse River in South-Eastern Neuland and over the years this area has been heavily settled by Europeans from various countries with cities spreading up and down the coast.. This settlement was largely one of conquest and occupation rather than co-habitation. Recently, this settlement pattern has begun to expand north of the mountains.  The Faraway Trading Company (FTC) holds a charter from James VII of Scotland  which grants them many rights. As mentioned above they have turned this into defacto control of the Western coast of the Southern half of the island while maintaining the semblance of a native realm. This means that there has been much greater interaction and co-operation between Europeans and the natives but there has been some influx of farmers as well as many tradesmen and a tendency towards assimilation or European-ization.

The question of economic and political control of the remaining native areas of the Island has been the source of various wars and is likely to be so again..


  1. Thinking back to the Vikings naming North America "Vinland" (after the fruit vines) and considering the Scottish influence, might I suggest that the Europeans first found fields of grain and thought of distilling so named this new land "Maltland" as a good supplier for distilling whisky?

    -- Jeff

  2. Ross Mac,

    Doing things like this are so much fun aren't they? I find that half the enjoyment is letting one's imagination run free as it creates an imagi-nation (or several if the mood takes you).

    All the best,


  3. Jeff, I should have known you'd inject a little refreshment into the picture! Perhaps I'll name one of the head lands "Cape of Good Hops" :)

  4. Looks like it's starting to round into shape nicely, Ross. I like your originality in deviating from the usual Euro 18th Century setting. Nothing wrong with the 18th Century of course, but it's refreshing to see Imagi-nations done in different eras as well.

    Steve C.

  5. Interesting work with more to come- I can't wait!

  6. Interesting story so far Ross. And nice to see that we Scots had made it so far west so early (James I : 1406-1437).

  7. Yes indeed such 'creation' is not only fun but enthralling. And yes, the process seem to get a life of its own, the 'author' feels more like an explorer than an inventor -even sometimes like Pygmalion / Dr. Frankenstein watching his 'creature'...

    - Nyland (ny = new in Swedish)?
    - Something (native? Or 'islander / savage &c.. or 'sunset' *in Danish*) + -gard or -heim or -fylke?
    - "new" or "western" *in gaelic* + Seal[tainn] {Shet[land]} or Arcaibh (Orkney)?
    - a combination of a Danish / Norwegian prefix (new, western, of the sunset...) with a gaelic suffix? Or the opposite...

    Hey, between the viking era and 'modern' times this country existed during the 18th C.!

  8. Tim, YIKES! What a difference a V makes. Thanks for catching that. Had to go check the old MacDuff files. Never transcribes old manuscripts when you're tired.

  9. Thanks Steve, I should point out that there is a long tradition of fictional "Colonial" lands so I'm just a little earlier than but in the foot steps of these.

  10. Thanks for the name suggestions, it occurs to me that like early Nova Scotia/Acadia or Haiti , there may well be competing European names for the island. I'll have to think about that. Unfortunately for me Latin is probably more likely than Gaelic. Alba Nuagh doesn't ever seem to have gamed any official status here.

  11. How about Atlantica? Better yet, Columbia, reflecting the fact that Columbus bumped into it on his way to the Carribean.

  12. Yes, I thought you probably meant the other chap! Interesting thought though - an intrepid captain and a strong Easterly wind...

  13. Tim, I just double checked the original web page and realized that it didn't specify which king, it merely talked of the Stuarts and their supporters, and since apparently there was never a claim of sovereignty by the Kings of the United Kingdom, I rather fear I meant James VIII, the Old Pretender but since the company seems to have continued operating, perhaps I meant James VII. I suspect such a discovery predating John Cabot not to mention that other Italian chap might have received more mention than it has.

  14. Chris, I think I'd best pass on Columbia not for fear of drug cartels but for fear of Spanish intervention.

    I rather like Atlantica though. Shades of Atlantis.